Brian found the cafe he was looking for. He was now 20 minutes late for a meeting. He had texted the guy 15 minutes ago, asking him to stick around. With the money he was going to pay this guy, he should have an incentive to be a little patient. “He’s kind of an ass though,” Brian thought as he entered the cafe.

He saw a man sipping coffee, wearing a brown fedora and reading the New York Post. The cafe was bustling and there was sufficient crowd noise for a semi-private conversation. He approached the man and asked, “Can I buy your next coffee?”

The man looked up from his paper, smiled a bit and said, “Sure, in a bit” in a very curt, whiny tone that was even more annoying in person. “Why don’t you have a seat first?”

This was their prearranged greeting since they had never met face-to-face. Brian sat across from him and looked around a bit.

“Don’t look around too much,” the man said, “you’re conspicuous enough in that shirt and matching hat. I thought you might be more business, than tourist.”

Brian laughed a bit and replied, “Tourist? Yeah, sorry about that. I lost my shirt in a little accident in midtown. I had to improvise quickly, so I wouldn’t keep you waiting any longer than I had to.”

“Well, if you’ve lost your shirt, are you still able to afford my package?” asked the man looking deeply into Brian’s eyes.

“Oh yes, don’t worry about that. Of course, you still haven’t given me your price,” said Brian.

“You haven’t told me your plan either,” said the man. “It’s one thing to sell you a package like this if you’re going to use it for some nefarious purpose, and another if you’re just an enterprising entrepreneur looking to change the world but needs a bit of help avoiding nuclear regulations and other red tape.”

“Well, it’s neither of those, but more like the latter,” replied Brian. “No one will get hurt through my application of this device, except maybe myself. Also, I want to confirm with you,” Brian paused a bit as he stared back into the man’s eyes, “no one got hurt when you acquired the device — right?” He tilted his head for dramatic effect.

The man sat back a little but maintained the stare. “I can make no guarantee, but there was no mention of it from my sources. The device you seek was extracted from the location you suggested and will be in transit soon.”

“Okay,” said Brian, “so what is your price?”

“You’ve been a very pleasant customer, sir, therefore I’m asking only 1.3 mil for this little package,” said the man, now smiling again.

“Wow, so generous. My expectation was about a mil,” said Brian looking down at the table for a moment. He knew this was probably non-negotiable. “But I can probably come up with the rest.”

The man leaned in and said, “And I prefer it wired to two specific accounts, in the following amounts.”

Brian interrupted, “Actually, I prefer to pay you cash. I don’t want any electronic fingerprints, nor do I have the means to easily convert my cash to electronic funds.”

The man looked at Brian for a few moments. “Okay, fortunately, my team is fairly local and so cash may not be an issue.”

“Cool. I find it usually works,” said Brian. “It will take me a day or so to get the funds together. I’ll text you when I’m ready to meet. Let’s make the exchange at the deli restaurant at this address.” Brian slid the man a card.

The man looked at the card. “I know this place. It should be fine. You may want to dress up a bit,” he said with a smile. Bring the funds in a brown attache and I will do the same with the device. It will be big, and heavy, but you look like you can manage.”

“Yes,” said Brian, “I work out regularly. Look for my text in a day or so.”

“Yes, I will,” said the man. “I think I’ll take a raincheck on that cup of coffee.”

“You got it,” replied Brain. “Thanks. Text you soon.”

Brian got up, turned and slowly walked out. As he left, he thought, “Now I gotta get that cash.”

Brus had counted that the bright yellow star of this planet had risen and set fifteen times, and there was still no sign of his father. His mother insisted that he and Reestin be patient. In order to pass the time, she allowed them to play games in the main room, but insisted they each spend several hours a day using the interactive system for lessons, including various subjects like math, science and language. Brus especially liked the scientific experiments he could conduct using the virtual three-dimensional models. Reestin’s favorites included the three-dimensional manipulative objects that he could use to construct buildings and virtual cities. However, they both wanted to venture outside to explore this new planet.

The place they had chosen to land was a relatively flat area, covered with tall, golden grass that waved slow and steadily. Just a few hundred meters away, a few tall trees stood, also gently waving in the wind. Just beyond that, the trees became thicker and lead to an area with taller hills, or possibly small mountains, though it was hard to tell by sight.

Occasionally, small groups of animals would wander by, foraging in the grass or, in some cases, larger animals with very long necks and big orange patches would reach up into the trees and pull their leaves. These were Reestin’s favorite, so far, though Brus enjoyed watching black and white striped animals that reminded him of the creetos he sometimes rode near his home. All of these animals appeared very cautious of these other, smaller light brown creatures that crept through the grass, sometimes chasing the other animals.

“They like to play!” Reestin would say, as the chase would begin. Brus and Reestin longed to venture out to see these animals up close. But Mother feared that they might be in danger of the creeping animals.

“Mother,” Brus pleaded one sunny day, “may we please go explore the creetos? We will be very quiet and cautious.”

“No,” she replied. “As I have told you many times now, once your father arrives, we will all explore together.”

“But we don’t know when he will return,” Brus replied. “It may be too late to see them.”

“Oh, I do not believe they will depart. They appear to live here.”

“I hope Father returns, soon,” Brus replied. “I am beginning to miss him, since we do not know when he will return.”

“Yes, I’m sure he will meet us, soon.”

“Hey Sarge,” Murphy said to Brown, “we have some of the video over in the van. You will want to see this!”

“Yeah, okay,” he turned and followed Murphy toward a white NYC Police communications van.

As they got close to the van, a blond woman in a tan dress suit spoke “Sergeant Brown, I’m Susan Davis, ABC7, what can you tell us about this robbery attempt? What happened to these guys?”

“Listen, Ms. Davis, we’ll have a full statement in about half an hour,” Brown replied, continuing to walk.

“Can you confirm a superhero stopped these guys or what?” the reporter persisted.

He stopped, turned and faced Davis. “All we know right now is that a couple of good samaritans stepped up and helped, but we don’t know the extent of it all. Let us do our jobs and we’ll fill you guys in shortly.” He turned and continued toward the van.

“The stories are pretty wild,” Davis replied. “I look forward to hearing the one you tell us.”

Brown said under his breath, “Hmph, me too.”

Murphy looked over at Davis, giving her a look that said: “cut it out.”

Murphy and Brown entered the van. Two other detectives were inside along with a young guy operating a video console. One of the detectives had just finished saying “that’s impossible!”

“All right, James,” Brown said interrupting, “what do we have?”

James, the video tech, replied “So far we have 6 camera angles, 5 from the bank and one from the building across the street. This one is a great view of the getaway car. The driver didn’t wear a mask and you can clearly make out his face. He’s dead to rights, if he is not actually dead. If you know what I mean.”

“He’ll survive,” Brown said. “What about our good Samaritan, what have you got on him?”

“The best view is this one, from the corner of the bank entrance. It shows our guy and 5 other people as they’re all walking down the street, over here.” He pointed to the upper section of the screen. “Here is when the car stopped and Officer Taylor, exiting the Gino’s Pizza, yelled at them to stop. He’s out of this camera view, but that’s what’s happening when these people all stop. Then, the bad guys open fire on him and this crowd. Watch what happens.”

The video shows Brian, three women, two men, and a child all walking in various directions, then they stop and look in the direction of the Dodge Charger. One woman and the other man, look over at the cop, then back at the car as all six adults are struck by gunfire, each in succession pushed back as the bullets hit them. The little girl was just behind her father and missed being hit by the gunfire. Everyone hit the ground except for the little girl and Brian. Next, Brian pushed the little girl to the ground and dove behind a minivan. Then, he moved around into the alley and emerged with an aluminum garbage can lid in his hands. Next, he spun a full 360 and the can lid flew out of his hands. The whole move was a blur, but you could see a streak of silver leave his hands and strike the closest gunman in the head. Then Brian ducked back into the alley as more gunfire struck the walls, and possibly him.

Brown said, “What the hell did we just see?”

James replied, “Wait, there’s more. Now, back to this angle,” he moved his hand on a trackpad and clicked another small video bringing it to full screen, then he clicked play, “you see the car and the guy shooting back at the Gino’s as the other officers emerged. Then, wham!”

The block of concrete landed on the car. The remaining gunman was surprised and sprang back from the car. Realizing it was over for the car, he reached into the car for something. As he was leaning into the car, a man in a white shirt approached him from behind. The gunman backed out from the car, turned around and the man in the white shirt grabbed the gun, yanked it free and immediately punched him in the head. Then he stepped back and ran out of frame, toward the pizza shop.

“Okay, so this guy Beckett is the guy who took out the gunmen. Do we have anything showing where that chunk of concrete came from.” Brown asked.

“No, nothing on video,” said James.

“But we do know where it came from,” said another detective.

“Where?” asked Brown.

“From the parking deck, across the alley from Gino’s,” said the detective.

“What? How? That’s too far away to have been pushed off. Is there some construction equipment, like a crane or something up there?” asked Brown.

The detective shook his head. “No, the parking company replaced a section of the deck’s wall after a truck backed into it, on the third floor. They had a contractor cut the sections out and they’ve been waiting to have them reformed.”

“Okay,” said Brown, “How’d it end up on top of the red car?”

Murphy chimed in, “That’s the million dollar question.”

“Scour that video again. There’s gotta be a clue there somewhere,” said Brown. Then he opened the door and exited the van. Murphy followed and closed the door.

They both stopped to look up at the parking deck and ponder about the cement block. It was at least forty yards from the car.

Brown turned to Murphy, “Look through the witness notes. If anyone mentions the concrete, question them again, digging deeper for where that came from. This just doesn’t add up.”

Brown walked away, leaving Murphy standing, staring at the deck. She was startled from her thoughts by someone calling her name.

“Liz! Hey Liz!”, shouted Davis. Murphy turned and walked over to her.

“Susan, you know I can’t give you anything right now, on or off the record,” Murphy said.

“I know, it’s really weird,” Davis replied. “What if I said I might have some video. That would be of interest to you?”

“What is it?” asked Murphy.

“Come on, Liz, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” replied Davis. “It’s a video sent to us via the website, from one of our viewers. He took the video from his office. If you want to see it, I’ll meet you at the coffee shop around the corner. 30 minutes?”

“Ok,” said Murphy.

“And Liz,” Davis said, “bring something to share.”

Murphy replied, “I’ll see what I can do.” She headed back toward the van.

After initially walking briskly away from the scene, Brian started to jog for about two blocks, then turned left up the block. As he got closer to Times Square, he stopped at a souvenir cart, full of NYC tagged items and magazines. He grabbed a black “I heart NY” shirt and a matching cap.

“How much for these?” Brian asked.

“Forty-two,” said a Pakistani guy on a stool.

“What? That’s crazy!” Brian said reaching into his pocket, pulling out some cash. He looked at the cash he had on-hand and extended a ten, a twenty and a $5. “Look, all I have is thirty-five bucks.”

“OK, since you obviously have already lost your shirt somehow,” he said, smiling. He grabbed the cash. “Do you want a bag?”

“No, thanks.” He put the shirt and hat on and continued on, turning right at the next block.

As he was walking, his phone started vibrating. He pulled it out and recognized the number as the little girl’s mother.

“Hello, you’re calling about your daughter?” Brian asked.

“Yes!” a woman replied. “What happened, where are they?”

“I’m sorry, I really don’t know. I’m no longer there,” Brian said. “You can call this guy, he’s a cop on the scene, and he should be able to help you.” He dug the card out from his jeans pocket. “His name is Brown and his number, 212-555-3232. You got that?”

She replied “3232?”

“Yes, that’s it,” Brian replied.

“Are they ok, can you tell me anything?” the woman asked desperately.

“Your daughter is fine, your husband was shot by a bank robber and was unconscious when I left them, right after I left you the voice mail. He was being taken care of by some paramedics. Call the cop and he can give a lot more information. I’m sorry I don’t know more. Call him. Good luck and goodbye.” Brian tapped the phone and put it back into his pocket.

Brown walked over to three other officers, comparing their notes. “Hey Murphy,” he said looking at a brunette woman wearing a dark blue suit jacket and jeans, “have you started collecting the surveillance video?”

Murphy turned to Brown, “Yeah we’ve requested it from the bank, both inside and out. We also noticed a couple of other small businesses that have cameras and Peterson is getting that. Plus there are a few traffic cams that we’ll get video from, as well.”

“Good,” said Brown, “Let’s review that as soon as possible. A lot of weird shit went down here and we need to know what it was. What have we pieced together so far?”

A young detective, looking at a notepad, started rattling off some facts. “Two guys robbed the bank, grabbing about ten thousand. The other perp was waiting just down the street in this red car. They ran out of the bank and the car stopped to pick them up, but a uni spotted it all going down, told them to stop and he was shot. These guys sprayed the crowd with bullets knocking everyone down and keeping the other officers back. But as they started to get into the car, one of them was struck by this garbage lid. Knocked him out. The other guy started shooting again.”

“Then, this thing hit the car.” The cop pointed at the concrete block planted in the engine compartment. “And then, some guy confronted the other guy, grabbing the gun and knocking him out with it.”

“Wait a minute,” Brown said, “they didn’t hit this thing getting away, it struck them? How?”

“No one knows for sure. It just kind of dropped on them.”

“Dropped? From what? A truck? There’s no construction going on. Where’d it come from?” Brown said, looking around. Brown yelled over to one of the uniformed cops, “Do you guys know where this came from?”

One replied, “No sir.”

“Look around, ask around. We need to track it down,” Brown said.

The uniformed cops looked closely at the chunk of concrete, then walked away.

Brown said to the detective “I spoke to the guy who threw the trash can lid. He said he was just trying to distract them and got lucky. So did you guys ID the guy who knocked this other guy out with his own gun? Must be a real badass, with a set of huge cojones.”

“What do you mean, sir?” asked the detective, “You interviewed him.”

“What?” said Brown.

“The shirtless guy, he was identified as the guy who took down the second shooter. Only he was wearing a white, button-down shirt. That lady over there ID’d him as the guy. I thought that’s why you were talking to him.”

“No, he was ID’d as the guy that threw the lid. Hey, Carter,” he pointed to another suited detective, “you saw the guy I was talking to — right?”

“Yeah,” Carter replied.

“He was headed that way. He’s in jeans and no shirt, should be fairly easy to spot and he can’t have gotten far. If you don’t see him, go this address and bring him in.” Brown handed him a note with the address.

“Got it,” Carter said. He tagged one of the uniformed officers on the back, “Come with me, please.” The two started jogging down the street.

Brown yelled over to a detective near the smoking car, “What’s the status of the thugs?”

The detective walked over, “The two shooters are both still unconscious, one has no wounds other than abrasion to his forehead. Looks like the one hit by the garbage can may have lost an eye, but we won’t know until they can get into the ER. The driver is pretty busted up. The steering column and dashboard crushed his legs pretty bad. He was unconscious, too.”

“Okay,” said Brown, “get their stories as soon as they wake up. I almost wouldn’t care, but there are a lot of questions here. We need to understand this scene, ’cause the press is going to be all over it.”

“Yep,” said Murphy, “they’re already insisting to speak with the officer in charge. You gonna talk to them?”

“Not now, we gotta have a few more answers first.”

“Sir! We need to speak with you.” Brian turned to see a guy in a brown suit walking quickly toward him. The suit had a badge hanging from the breast pocket. “Someone said you’re an eye-witness, and we don’t want these guys to get off.”

“Um, okay,” Brian said, “I’m already running really late. And it should be pretty clear who the bad guys are. They are the ones unconscious without bullet wounds.”

“This should just take a few more minutes. Would you mind stepping over here? What happened to your shirt?”

“Um, I used it to bandage some of the victims,” Brian replied.

“Oh, wow. That was very generous of you. Hey let’s step over here and you can clean up a bit while I ask you a few questions. These folks are really lucky that you happened by.”

Brian accepted an antiseptic towel package, ripped it open and wiped his hands and arms to remove the blood that had dried. “How long is this going to take?”

“Start by telling us what you remember,” the officer said.

Brian replied, “I was walking up 38th toward the bank, when the alarm went off and these guys came running out of the bank, shooting guns. They shot in our direction and I ducked into that alley. When the gunshots stopped, I started helping the victims.”

“I see,” said the officer. “Where were you going when it all went down?”

“Home,” said Brian.

“And where is that?” asked the officer.

“Why do you need to know that?” asked Brian.

“Just in case we need you for additional questions, or for a subpoena if we need you in court. It’s just standard procedure,” said the cop. “Can I see your ID?”

“I don’t have my ID, I was just out for a walk,” said Brian.

“Hmm, okay, what’s your name and address then?” asked the cop.

“My name is Brian Beckett and I live at 462 W 44th,” said Brian.

“Phone number?” asked the cop. “And, uh, where were you coming from?”

“Um, 619-555-3321,” said Brian. “I was just out for a walk, stopped by the library for a while.”

“Ok, so, uh, one more thing, according to some of the other witnesses, you were a bit more than just an eyewitness. Are you sure you don’t want to elaborate a bit more on what you saw, or did?” asked the cop, looking intently into Brian’s eyes.

Brian looked away briefly and noticed a few news trucks had arrived and reporters were questioning the bystanders.

“Listen,” Brian said, “I really need to go meet my elderly mother, can we follow up later?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the cop said, “we should really get as much detail as possible now, while it’s all fresh in your head. Please, just tell me what else you saw — or did.”

“Ok, I heaved a trash can lid at one of the perps.” Brian continued, “Luckily, it hit him in the head and he fell down. I was just trying to distract them so the police had a little more time. But then I ran back into the alley and waited for the noise to stop. And, after that, I started helping the victims.”

“Were you ever in law enforcement?” asked the cop.

“No, why do you ask?” said Brian.

“Oh, just some of the things you’ve said. Sounds like you had some experience” replied the cop.

“I was a fireman for a while, in New Mexico, not here.” Brian added, “But that was a few years ago, I’m not cut out for that.” Brian tossed the towels in what looked like a trash can. “If you need anything else, you know where to find me. I really gotta go.”

“Ok,” said the cop, “I’m sure we’ll be in touch. Here’s my card if you think of anything else.” The cop handed him a card. Brian looked at the name, Sergeant Pete Brown. He shoved it into his jeans and walked away from the crowd.

“Hey, Mr. Beckett,” Brown yelled, “your place is that way.”

Brian, turned, walking backward, replied “My Mom’s place is this way. And I gotta buy a new shirt.” With that, he turned and picked up the pace.

August in New York City is typically very hot. But this Saturday was a bit cooler than the typical day and the streets were busy as people tried to take advantage of the cooler day to run errands and just enjoy the city. It was shaping up to be a really great day. Until the Chase Bank alarm started to blare. Then all hell broke loose.

Two masked men emerged, headed for a red Dodge Charger that had just squealed to a stop. Suddenly, gunfire was heard and people began screaming as a New York cop fired a couple of rounds at the gunmen, missing. The gunmen turned, opening fire on him and the crowd he had emerged from. The cop and six other people were pushed back and dropped to the ground as the automatic rifle flowed a stream of bullets in their vicinity. One man in the crowd, a dark-haired, late twenty-something guy in a white button-down shirt, jerked as he was struck, but then dived behind a minivan that had stopped when the commotion started. The man then took another diving roll into an alley, as a few more officers emerged from the pizza joint where they were all having lunch. They, too, were met with heavy fire and fell to the ground as they were stuck.

The man in the white shirt stepped out from the alley, with a round aluminum garbage can lid in his hand. Flinging it as if it were a frisbee, the lid flew like a bullet down the street, striking one gunman in the right eye. His head fell back and his body followed, hitting the car, then the street. Another gunman turned toward the man, opening fire again, moving toward his fallen partner. Then, he grabbed a duffle bag lying next to the fallen bank robber and flung it into the car. As he started to open the door to climb into the Charger, a large block of cement barricade, crashed down on the car, just in front of the driver, crushing the windshield and engine, halting the car. Steam appeared from the front of the car. Instead of getting in the car, the gunman reached into the car for the duffle bag, now realizing his getaway car, and driver, were out of commission. As the gunman emerged, the man in the white shirt was standing there, with his hand on the barrel of the gun.

“Hi there,” the man in the white shirt said. “Give it up. You know that’s not yours. And I kinda trashed your ride,” he said, with a sly grin.

The gunman struggled to aim the gun at him, but the man in the white shirt easily jerked the gun out of the man’s hand, then used the butt to strike the thief, rendering him unconscious. He fell to the ground and the man in the white shirt backed up, allowing him to fall face first onto the concrete.

Turning back, the man in the white shirt ran over to the crowd. Many of the victims were alive, writhing in pain from gunshot wounds. The man in the white shirt removed his shirt, ripping the buttons and tearing the shirt into shreds. He started with a woman, about forty, using part of the shirt, folded to create a thick pad, he pushed down on a wound to her stomach. She was conscious, so he said, “Hold it tight over the wound. Do your best to ignore the pain, but keep it as tight as possible.”

The man moved to another, younger woman. She was holding her leg, which was bleeding profusely. The man ripped one of the arms off of his shirt and tied it around her upper thigh to reduce the blood loss. He picked her up and sat her upright against the front of the pizza shop. “Stay awake,” he said. “Focus on the clock over there, count every second until help arrives. I want to hear you counting while I check these other people.”

“What’s your name?” the woman asked.

“Brian,” said the man. “Now start counting!”

“Thank you, Brian,” she said as she looked at the clock in front of the bank. “22, 23, 24,” she started counting.

Brian turned to an elderly man who was holding his shoulder, while leaning against the wall. “Don’t worry about me. I’ve been shot worse than this. Help that guy.” He was pointing at one of the cops.

Brian moved over to the cop. He had been hit in the stomach and wasn’t moving. Brian felt for a pulse and found one. He ripped open the officer’s shirt and looked at the wound. It was pretty bad, bleeding heavily. The pizza shop owner ran out carrying a red box.

“I have a first aid kit,” he said as he looked down at the cop. “Oh my god! Chuck!” he exclaimed as he dropped to his knees opening the kit. He grabbed a gauze pad and ripped it open, pressing it to the officer’s wound. “Chuck, man, you gotta hang on!”

The officer opened his eyes slightly, “Gino,” he said, “you gotta get back inside, these guys are killers.”

Gino said, “They’re all down. This guy took care of ‘em.” He motioned to Brian.

Brian, turned away, “Keep that bandage on tight so he doesn’t bleed out!” With that, Brian moved on to another woman.

The woman was unconscious, bleeding from the stomach. Brian ripped her shirt to find a wound like the cop’s. He grabbed a couple of gauze bandages, ripped them open and applied pressure to the wound. Then, he sat her up against the wall, ripped her shirt open and pulled it over her head with one hand, while keeping the pressure on her stomach. When the shirt finally came off, we wrapped it around her and tied it tight, then wadded the body of the shirt over the bandage to apply as much pressure as possible.

Police cars and ambulances had begun to arrive, as Brian turned his attention to a small girl, lying face down in the fetal position holding her head. When Brian touched her shoulder, she jumped a bit.

“Are you hurt?” Brian asked the girl. She lifted her head and looked at Brian.

“I don’t know — I don’t think so,” she said looking over at a guy who was not so lucky. “Is my Daddy okay?”

Brian moved over to the guy, who was laying on his side, crumpled, facing the sidewalk. Brian rolled him over revealing a chest wound. Brian grabbed his wrist to find had a very weak pulse, and then opened his shirt to reveal the wound in his lower rib cage. He ripped some of his shirt to create a bandage and applied pressure. Just as he did, a paramedic arrived and asked Brian to step aside.

Brian stood up, then helped the girl to her feet. “He’s in good hands now.” He took her hand and walked over to another paramedic. “This little girl belongs with him. Will you make sure she’s okay?” The paramedic nodded. Brian turned back to the girl, “Stay with him. Do you want me to call your mother?”

“Yes,” she said, as tears rolled down her face.

“Do you know your number?” He said as he pulled out his smartphone.

“201-555-3211,” she replied, now trembling.

Brian dialed the number. A moment later, he said, “Hi, I’m here in New York with your husband and daughter. Your daughter is fine, but your husband has been shot and is being treated by paramedics. The paramedics will be taking them to Bellevue, I think.”

He tapped the phone and then put it into his jeans. Brian looked at the girl. “Stay with this guy and your father.” He released the girl’s hand and started walking away from the bank.

“Hey buddy!” someone shouted from behind him.

Brian stopped briefly, then continued walking. There was enough help here now.

“Hey, we need to talk to you. Stop!” the man said again.

Brian picked up the pace. Time to move on.

Brusiaa awoke to the sound of slow, alternating tones and the voice of a computer speaking. As a young child, he wasn’t able to understand everything it said, but it sounded as if it were shouting some sort of warning.

He climbed down from his top bunk and saw his younger brother, Reestin, was stirring, but still asleep. He walked out into the hallway, noticing his parents room was empty and climbed the stairs to a larger room, looking for them. The room, known to him as the family’s living space, contained a large computer screen filled with colorful, shapes and with words scrolling on the left side, but he could not read them all enough to understand what they meant.

He could hear his parents talking, so he walked to the other side of the room and down a smaller stairway, then continued down a short hallway into a room, where he found his parents. As he entered, he looked to the right, out at the stars moving almost imperceptibly.

“Oh, Brus, did we wake you?” his mother asked.

“No, Mother,” he replied, as he looked over at his father, who had a worried look on his face. “It was DANOO. What is it saying?”

“It speaks of a small problem,” she replied, looking over at her husband, who turned his attention back to a small area of a very large screen, just below the viewport of their spacecraft. “Do not worry. If you do not want to return to bed, you may sit here and watch the stars as your father and I work in the equipment room.”

She lifted him, setting him in a chair facing the front. She and her husband walked out. His father reached over and tousled his hair a bit and gave a slight smile as he exited the room. He could still hear them speaking as he continued to watch the stars.

“I must do this,” his father said. “It will ensure your safety and I will return once it is over.”

“But we should do this together,” she said, with a sound of distress in her voice.

“No. I must go alone. If we continue, they will follow,” he said. “I must meet them, surrender if necessary. But by going to them, I will surprise them. They are expecting resistance. By approaching peacefully, I will surprise them. And I can use the small vectara for sabotage.“

“But then how will you return?”

“I will find a way,” he said, with a note of positivity. “And if you follow the current course, I will find you.”

“But is this place we are going a better option?” she asked.

“It is,” he replied. “The people are very primitive. They have no technology greater than ours. And this is our chance to save them from the Heertharro.”

“How will you find us?”

“I will use the codes. I have them committed to memory. But they will not have them. And by creating a diversion, they will lose sight of you. It is the safest way.”

It was silent for a few minutes. Then Brussiaa heard footsteps and his father entered the room, wearing a full-body, green suit. His father was tall and slender, with dark hard and rugged facial features. His face was normally very gentle looking, but Brus could see the stress in his eyes. He sat next to his son, who looked up at him, eagerly.

“My brave Brus,” he said, smiling as he put his left hand on his head. “I must go out for a bit. To fix our problem. While I am gone, I need you to take care of your brother and help your mother. Can you do that for me?”

“Ye, yes, Father,” he stammered a bit. “How long will you be gone?”

“It won’t be long. But, while I’m gone, you must be the guiding light for Reestin until I return. You will do that for me?”

“Yes, Father,” he said. “Are you going someplace, dangerous?”

“Oh, no,” he said, forcing a smile. “It is not dangerous, but there is, eh, a little risk. But do not worry. I will be back soon. Then we will continue with our training and our trip, exploring this beautiful planet. In fact, your mother is going to take you there now and I will join you later.”

“Alright,” Brusiaa said, smiling a little. “Be careful.”

“I will,” he said, patting his head again. Then, he walked out and Brusiaa could hear him walking to the back of the spacecraft.

Brusiaa walked down the four steps to the equipment room, where he found his mother, sitting quietly with tears in her eyes. She wiped her face as she saw him enter the room, then pulled her long brown hair back, tying it behind her head.

“Your father told you?”, she said, trying to smile.

“Yes. He must leave for a short while?”

“Yes, I think it will be a short while,” she said, holding out a hand. Brus approached and sat beside her on the small bench. She put her arm around him and pulled him closer.

Brus’ father entered the room and said, “Reestin is mostly asleep. Please give him my apology for leaving without saying goodbye properly.”

“He will be disappointed,” she said, standing to embrace her husband, as the alarm began to intensify. The computer spoke again.

“Tell him I will return soon. As soon as possible. I must go now,” he said, releasing his wife. He walked over to a table and tapped the computer screen. After a minute, he turned and picked up a bulky green suit, stepping into it, then he stepped into a pair of matching boots. The suit shrunk to fit more appropriately, as he reached for a helmet and placed it over his head. He turned and tapped a panel beside a door that opened in response.

“Goodbye for now,” he said. They could now hear him from the same speaker as the computer. They both waved as he entered the small room and the door closed. A few moments later, a loud clank sound was heard and Brus’ mother turned away from him and began to wipe her eyes again.

“Alright,” Brus’ father could be heard. “I am away. You are near the aporta. But I will contact the Heertharro and request that they follow me to a rendezvous point. When they turn to follow, enter the aporta. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Go now, my dear,” he said. “I will see you soon.”

Brus’ mother turned and walked out. He followed her to the control room. He continued to watch the stars while she tapped the computer terminal. He looked down at the screen, but did not understand what she was doing.

A moment later, the alarm sound ended and the computer made a statement. Brus’ mother pointed out at the starfield.

“Watch,” she said.

He watched as the starfield shifted a bit and was replaced by a new pattern of stars. Only now, when he looked closely, Brus could tell that one was not a star. It was bigger than the stars and was white, with a bit of blue, so it must be a planet. He leaned against his mother and continued to watch as the little planet slowly increased in size, until he drifted off to sleep.

Brus awoke as his mother typed into the computer console in front of them. Her fingers moved quickly, tapping evenly arranged dots, lined in rows on the surface of the console. Above the rows of dots, he could see letters and words appear, though he did not understand them.

The little blue and white planet was now directly before them and they were entering its atmosphere. He sat up and looked around at the white clouds covering the planet and could see small glimpses of a large blue ocean below them.

He sat up for a better look and asked, “This is where we are going?”

“Yes,” his mother replied. “We will stay here for just a little while.”

“What is the name of this place?” Brus asked, trying to look beyond the clouds at the planet’s horizon.

“The people here have not given it a name, as they are very primitive. Our universal catalog has only given it a number.”

The spacecraft continued down toward the planet’s surface and the clouds opened revealing more of the planet’s oceans, plus green and brown land masses. He continued to look around as they moved closer to the ground. The spacecraft had been programmed to take them to a specific area and, as they arrived, the computer spoke and Brus’ mother took the control as it automatically rose from underneath the console.

Brus could now see structures created by the inhabitants, light brown in color, some closely grouped together with smaller structures spread out on the edges of a town with a large river running through it. He was amazed by the tall, round columns in front of many of the larger buildings and some appeared to have large statues in front. These must be statues of the creatures that live here, he thought.

As they descended lower, flowing slowly over the city, he could now see the inhabitants, dressed in loose-fitting, lightly colored clothing. They were very similar to Brus’ parents, but they all had darker skin. Some where leading large, four-legged animals that pulled wheeled vehicles behind them. Others where carrying large bags on their shoulders.

Brus’ mother noticed a few of them pointing at their spacecraft and many others where looking up at them. Even from this height, they appeared to be afraid. In response, she tapped a few buttons on the console and turned left, away from the city. They continued over a less inhabited area that quickly turned barren and appeared to be mostly sand and dunes.

“Will we be staying with the people here?” Brus asked, looking up at his mother.

She looked down and smiled. “No, we shall find another place.”

They continued for several minutes watching the sand and dunes, then saw more structures in the distance and turned toward them. These were very massive and tall, pyramid structures, constructed of very large, perfectly stacked blocks of the same brown stone. Nearby was a large statue. It looked like some sort of four-legged animal lying on it’s stomach. It had a beautifully carved face, similar to the people they had seen. A face similar to their own.

“Mother, look!” he said, pointing at the statue. “It is beautiful.”

“Yes,” she replied. “Maybe we will see this creature sometime soon. But, for now, we must find some place that has fewer inhabitants.”

She turned the spacecraft again, flying higher so she could see more of the landscape. Then, she tapped the computer terminal and a map appeared in the space in front of the window. Brus watched as she moved it around with her hands and then, finally, tapped an area. The spacecraft responded with a slight turn, descended and then accelerated.

Within a few minutes, they saw grassy plains and large patches of forest areas ahead of them, and Brus’ mother slowed the craft again, so they could get a better look at their new surroundings. Occasionally, they would see a group of light brown four legged animals, but no people. Brus stood up and looked intently out of the window down at the ground, trying to spot the creature represented by the statue. However, when he looked closely, he now saw a few people with even darker skin than they had seen previously, wearing very little clothing, traveling in small groups.

Brus’ mother turned the spacecraft again, flying over a small body of water and, after a few minutes, said, “We will land here.” Bruss looked around and could see only a grassy area near a forest.

“We will wait here for Father?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, smiling. “This is where we will wait.”